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Bleak House: A Masterpiece Exposing the Rotten Core of the British Judicial System

  The plot of “Bleak House” revolves around the “Jardish v. Jarndish case”. The case involved a huge estate: the distribution of the estate included multiple wills whose authenticity was difficult to distinguish, as well as the resulting trusts (involving several beneficiaries), so it was impossible to determine the heirs of the property. The heroine of the novel, Baroness Dedlock, made a mistake in her early years and gave birth to an illegitimate daughter Esther with a captain. The latter was adopted by John Jarndish, the owner of “Bleak House” who was involved in the case. Baron family lawyer Turgeon Hall discovered this secret and collaborated with others to carry out blackmail. Unable to bear the disturbance, the Baroness was forced to run away from home and died in a snowstorm. Turgeonhall was murdered by an accomplice. Due to corruption and perversion of the law by officials at all levels, the case was backlogged and delayed in the Chancery Chamber for as long as 20 years.
  At the end of the story, the long-lost will was discovered in the pile of old papers. The evidence was conclusive and the judge could finally make a ruling. But it was only then that people realized that the entire inheritance just offset the legal costs. The people who had been stationed at “Desolate Villa” for twenty years and fought the lawsuit were either dead or crazy due to grief and despair. Only the pure and kind-hearted Esther secretly married her cousin and lived a peaceful and happy life from then on.
  After thoroughly exposing and criticizing the Chancery throughout the book, Dickens warns readers: “Even if you are greatly wronged, it is best to endure it and never come here!” “Bleak House” is not a masterpiece of Dickens and the British legal system
  . The first time to “harden up”. As we all know, in his early years, because his father was imprisoned, Dickens once dropped out of school and entered a “black factory” as an apprentice. This humiliating experience became a lifelong nightmare for him. Later, by teaching himself law and shorthand, he became a court reporter in the Chancery Chamber. It was also during this period that he gained a deeper understanding of the Chancery and English law: “One of the great principles of English law is the accumulation of money.” Or as he said in the first chapter of “Bleak House”: “No amount of mud in the streets can compare with the ignorance and corrupt practices of the London Chancery Chamber.” In fact, before this book fully exposed the British judicial system represented by the Chancery Chamber, he had already published it in several works China launches an attack on the “chronic diseases” existing in the judicial system.
  In his early autobiographical novel “The Pickwick Papers”, Dickens described a breach of engagement lawsuit “Baddell v. Pickwick” and used this case to mock the British divorce law at the time. Later, in “Hard Times”, he criticized British marriage laws, including divorce laws, which seemed to be enough to make him feel bad.
  In “Oliver Twist”, Dickens criticized the “fake” poor law. And by extension, it points the finger at the entire judicial system.
  It is worth noting that Dickens not only criticized and ridiculed the judicial system in his literary works, but also fought tirelessly against it in real life. In 1840, Dickens served as a juror at Marylebone Court in London, responsible for the “Burgess Murder Trial” – a young woman in the workhouse was accused of killing her own baby. Dickens firmly believed that the accusation lacked evidence and was “unnatural to human nature”, so he vigorously defended it. He first found Richard Donne, his former classmate at the Inner Temple, and persuaded the famous lawyer to help. Donne had been Bentham’s secretary and had extensive connections in the legal community. Later, Dickens implored Dr. Boyd of the workhouse to testify that there was a foreign body in the baby’s trachea and that he had died when he was found. In the end, the court ruled that she was not guilty of murder and Miss Burgess was released in court.
  At the same time, as a clear symptom of legal corruption, Dickens was devastated that prisons that were supposed to be used to reform criminals had become a haven of crime. In novels such as “Little Dorrit” and “Great Expectations” after “Bleak House”, Dickens further complained about the cruel persecution of debtors by the law – in the eyes of property owners, poverty and debt are crimes. In addition, he also combined his early life experiences to depict several major prisons in London such as Marshallsey, Fleet, and Newgate, and fiercely criticized the “dark” prison system, especially the debtor’s prison system: like The terrifying spider spirit in mythology and the essence of the British judicial system, including prisons, are “cannibalism” – as Dickens emphasized in “Bleak House”, all of the above are evidence that “British law is not only stupid, but also It’s also evil.”
  In Dickens’s view, “inefficiency” is too mild a description of the evil and cruelty of the British judicial system. In “Little Dorrit,” he “created” an organization called the “Procrastination Department,” whose motto is “How to get rid of it.” As we all know, as early as Shakespeare’s time, Prince Hamlet regarded “the delay of the law” as a major hardship in life. However, in the Victorian era, this stubborn problem has not only not been corrected, but has become worse, like a giant meat grinder, unless all involved in the case are included. The person’s bones will be shattered into pieces, otherwise he will never give up. By comprehensively describing the Jarndyce case, Dickens profoundly reveals the nature of the Chancery: it entangles the parties with cumbersome judicial procedures and terrible bureaucracy until it drives them crazy.
  In fact, as early as the 1830s, knowledgeable people in the United Kingdom had already proposed reform of the Chancery Chamber: stipulating that judges of the Chancery Chamber should enjoy a fixed salary, and charging additional fees or remuneration would be a crime, and once verified, they would be punished. Prosecution.
  In 1842, the Chancery, under pressure from outside, abolished a number of “useless offices”. In March of the same year, “The Times” published a blockbuster article, declaring that the name of the Chancery Chamber represented terror, “an abyss that swallows everything, a trap from which there is no return”, and attributed the misfortunes of ordinary people to the Great Chancery. The inaction and indiscretion of the court.
  With the positive response of the public, the Chancery Reform Movement reached its climax in the 1850s. Shortly after the serialization of “Bleak House” began, a committee commissioned to investigate the Chancery Chamber submitted a report to Parliament. It concluded that the proceedings of the Chancery Chamber were time-consuming, complicated, and expensive. As the case is repeatedly stated and counter-stated, and evidence and counter-evidence are provided, even though the parties have no substantial dispute over the facts, the two parties will continue to be entangled with each other, wasting people and money.
  The investigation found that the salaries of justices and their staff account for only a small part of their personal income, and most of their “grey income” comes from misappropriation of court fees. Subsequently, the Parliament issued a decree to completely change the method of collecting evidence, replacing various cleverly-named fees with fixed salaries, in order to put an end to the chaos of seeking power for personal gain, and at the same time, completely eliminate the magistrate’s office. This also means that after this reform, all judicial trials will be led by one judge. The efficiency of court trials has thus been greatly improved.
  After a series of reforms, the Chancery Chamber, which used to be an agency of the royal power, was finally disbanded in 1873 and replaced by the High Court. At this point, this behemoth exuding a rotten atmosphere finally came to an end. It took Britain a full five hundred years to complete this process.
  Dickens and his Bleak House played an important role in this process. The most direct inspiration for this book is said to have originated from a chat between the novelist and his fan, the then Chief Justice Lord Denman. The latter complained that the numerous delays in court cases were simply “due to the state’s stinginess in providing enough judges for the courts.” Perhaps it was this sentence that triggered Dickens’s anger that “there must be no lawsuit”.